June 29, 2021
By Amber Mahieu, Senior Manager Supply Chain Quality
My journey started in Brussels Belgium. I was raised by a single mom and as an only child, I was always told it was ok to be who I wanted to be. I never really understood what my mum meant but I knew that I felt different than the people around me. I didn’t understand why other girls were attracted to boys. Later, at the end of the 1990s, the penny dropped as I was reading articles of famous people I know came out, including Ellen Degeneres and Sam Bettens from K’s Choice. They all identified as lesbian and explained how they felt and discovered this. Everything they said sounded so familiar and helped me to understand why I felt differently. Since then I identified as a lesbian.
It took me a while to come out at home. I did it unprepared and caught my mum out of the blue. That did not help with her initial reaction and made me insecure about telling anyone else. Because of my fear of how people would react, I did not come out to the rest of my family for some time. Now I know differently that they would all have fully accepted me. Even my grandma accepted it. She didn’t use the word lesbian, but she would say, when I introduced my wife to her, “So she is more than a normal friend to you.” It made me smile.
During my university years, I would visit the Rainbow café in Brussels to meet like-minded people and to be the person I am and not pretend or hide my true identity. I did voluntary work and helped youngsters struggling with their identity by listening and talking to them, providing them a shoulder to cry on.
My private life and work-life couldn’t be more opposite to each other. While in the LGBTQ+ community, I could be my true self and be at ease but at work, I was pretending a long time to be someone else. For more than 10 years of my professional life, I would avoid questions about boyfriends and relationships. I would say I didn’t have a boyfriend while at that time I was in a relationship with a woman. This all changed when my wife got pregnant. At the three-month pregnancy mark when we could tell the world we were expecting, I decided to tell my manager and colleagues. I received positive words from all of them. Some were surprised while others said they had an idea I was lesbian.
It was a huge relief to be finally my true self at work and from that day I promised to myself to be open and bring my true self to work every single day.
In the meantime, I got married and our daughter, Amy, turned 6. Amy makes sure that we are our authentic selves every single day but sometimes we need to explain why certain things are not possible, such as countries we are not allowed to visit. That is the reason why employee resource groups (ERG) like the LGBTQ+ ERG are so important within companies to ensure that people are educated around the topic but also understand the struggles that are faced.
I joined the ERG in my previous company and saw what amazing work can be done in a company to ensure that everyone is included and represented. When the LGBTQ+ ERG was announced to be set up for Viatris, I didn’t doubt a second to be part of this and help employees in this new organization to be their authentic selves at work and every day.